What’s the one thing that moms obsess over when they are about to have newborn baby? Besides, how much is giving birth actually going to hurt and if they have enough hand sanitizer in each room for all guests to use before touching the baby (2 bottles per room is enough, right?) But the biggest thing that new moms obsess about is………SLEEP.
When my first son was born I spent what seemed like 97% of my day just trying to get him to go to sleep. I was obsessed about a schedule and when he cried 2 hours and 12 minutes after a feeding what was a girl to do? Listen to screams for the next 48 minutes until the “scheduled” 3 hour increment? Cave in an potentially doom the schedule for life? New mom stuff is not easy. In fact, we spend the majority of the day questioning our decisions because when it comes to newborns, what do we really know? Every child is different, some sleep better than others. What works for one might not work for another. Yadda. Yadda. Yadda. But you asked for some tips for infant sleep so here goes!
After 4 kids, here is what I’m going to tell you about sleep: Basically the first year is a crap shoot. The first month is usually pretty rough, months 2-3 provide a little relief and your baby “should” sleep for longer stretches, around 4 months (this is where I am now) babies experience sleep regression (it’s really fun), around 5 months you are back on track, then factor in teething, colds, ear infections and reflux and you’ll soon realize that you’ll sleep when your dead. But it’s okay. You will get used functioning on less sleep. Treat yourself to these for the really rough nights – the bigger the better. But, for what it’s worth, here are a few tips for infant sleep that happen to work for me.
Tip 1: Essential Gear
These are all of the sleep inducing must-haves that I swear by. I actually don’t have a monitor (it broke 2 kids ago), but I linked the one everyone is buying now. The image is clickable if you want more information on each item.
Tip 2: Eat Play Sleep
Starting in the second month when your baby is awake for longer stretches during the day, follow the eat, play, sleep routine. If you get in the habit of nursing/feeding your baby to sleep, it’s harder for them to learn to fall asleep on their own. This also helps you to understand their needs. When a baby starts to get fussy after eating and being awake for a bit, you will know it’s time for a nap. The only exception to this rule is at nighttime. After you feed them, they should go right to sleep. In theory, you should put your baby in the crib awake, but drowsy. I may or may not adhere to that “rule”. This book explains this method in more detail.
Tip 3: Consistency is Key
Naps lengths are all over the place the first few months. You never know what your gonna get. That being said, the best time to start a consistent routine is at nighttime. Around 2 months I started putting my baby to bed at 8pm every night. If bedtimes are random, your baby’s sleep cycle will be random. Recently my baby has been getting fussy around 7/7:30 so I moved his bedtime up a bit, so there is a bit of give and take. Whatever you routine is (i.e. bath, book, swaddle, feeding, bed)… do it the same night after night.
Tip 4: Load ’em up
This next tip is all theory, but I think it works. It is recommended that you feed your baby every 3 hours. During the evening hours, I try to squeeze in an extra feeding before bedtime with hopes that more milk when I’m awake will mean less milk in the middle of the night. Another thing I’ve tried is the “dream feed” where you put your baby to bed, then before you go to bed (2 hours later or so) you pick them up and feed them in their sleep.
Tip 5: A Little Crying is Okay
I’m not here to tell you to let your baby cry it out. I’ve tried it, yes, and it worked for 2 of my kids and not for the other. It’s also not easy on anyone, but does it teach a baby how to self-soothe? Maybe. What I will say is that a little crying when you put them down for a nap (because, remember, you are not nursing to sleep!) is totally ok. My grandmother used to always say that crying is a baby’s way of getting exercise and blowing off steam. I let my baby cry for 5 minutes or so and then go in and give him his pacifier. After he’s cried/exercised a bit, he seems more desperate for the paci and almost immediately falls asleep.
And here is a little bonus tip, don’t ever EVER brag about how well your baby sleeps. Once you do that, I can pretty much guarantee that you’ll be up every other hour the next night 😉
What are your baby whisperer tips for infant sleep? Share away in the comments!
Photograph by Alison Cornell